I knew you were sick for about a year. I knew you were very sick for several months. And I knew you were going to die in only a few days. I did not know how impossible it would be to process your death when it came. You were so many things to so many of us, but as a community, we are all suffering the loss of a truly great professor. How can it be that I know who a “truly great professor” is without precisely knowing what that means?
A good professor keeps his students engaged; you did that. Any student who has taken Business Communications with you remembers the day you walked into class dressed in a Karate gi and demonstrated “Sensei Rob’s 5 Rules of Speaking.” We all got a good laugh that day, but there is no doubt that we internalized your lessons. No one can do a penguin flipper now without a Business Communications student noticing. Thank you, Dr. Yale.
A good professor shows passion for teaching; you did that. There was never a class that you were not fully prepared for, with an effective presentation that probably took a few hours to make. You spoke clearly and knowledgeably about everything you taught, but you did so with a flare that was all your own. I did not realize how many business principles could be exemplified through Taco Bell! Your passion was infectious, and it motivated me to put forth the utmost effort in your class because you convinced me that the things you were teaching were worthwhile for me to learn. Thank you, Dr. Yale.
A good professor cares about his students; you did that. You told us on the first day of class that your goal was to be the most accessible teacher on campus, so you gave us not only your email and office extension, but also your cell phone number and Skype username. I can attest that you were always reachable and willing to help.
Even over breaks, you would edit my resumes, applications and PowerPoints. You Skyped a few of us while we were in Rome because you wanted to see how we were doing. I complained to you about Unified Analysis, so you bought me lunch and engaged me in a discussion about it, which, of course, you won. You were a legend because you gave your students the best incentive possible to make a good impromptu speech: a steak dinner at Del Frisco’s Steakhouse. You worked with your students to help them succeed because you truly cared that they did. Thank you, Dr. Yale.
Inarguably you were a good professor, but what was it that made you great? There was a life in you, Dr. Yale, which was contagious. You were funny, exuberant and joyful. You were impossible not to like and very easy to love.
You may have died, but that does not mean you are gone. There was something about the way you taught, or really more about the way you were, that transcended the classroom by engendering that life in the souls of others. By having known you, I have been changed; it is impossible not to be, as a fire will set fire to those things around it. When it is finally extinguished, those things are not the same as they were before or ever shall be again. Your fire burned briefly but intensely, and your legacy will be that light you have instilled in others.
No, you are not gone. You will be there every time I go to Taco Bell. You will be there every time I see a bad PowerPoint, with a feeling of frustration and laughter. You will be there in every frozen yogurt shop in Texas, wishing it was ice cream.
You will be there in every figure of strength, courage and faith I see. And I hope, one day, that someone might see that light from you shine forth through me.